NEWCASTLE — The Newcastle Game Warden Station currently under construction on Musser Road will cost the Wyoming Game and Fish Department over $600,000, according to updated information received from Mark Nelson, the official custodian of records for the agency.
This new station will serve as the home and office for Game Warden Troy Achterhof. The bids for the construction project closed on May 8 of last year with Powder River Construction of Gillette submitting the low bid of $498,354 for construction of the station/home. The bid notice ran for one month on publicpurchase.com.
The increase in the original construction bid is due, in part, to a change order from Powder River Construction for $6,749.69, according to Brian Nesvik, director of Game and Fish.
Also included in the final $608,444.02 price tag are the purchase of a 5.44-acre lot from the Varner family for $80,000; water line tap fees, $4,500; drafting and designing the house plans, $1,800; geotechnical investigation into the property, $4,000; and an estimated $13,040.33 to Powder River Energy for electrical installation that has not been completed yet.
The bid documents also state that propane gas and communication lines will have to be run to the new building, although a specific cost has not been provided.
According to the summary and feasibility study for the station provided to the News Letter Journal by Game and Fish, living in a game warden station is a condition of employment for game wardens in the state. This condition is outlined in the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission Policy, which states that a minimum of 1,300 square feet of living space must be provided, as well as a suitable ground-level room for an office. Nesvik had said that the policy stated 1,500 square feet during a March 2 conversation with the News Letter Journal.
The new home, according to Nesvik, will provide 1,800 square feet of living space for the Achterhof family, along with a two-car garage and office space.
“We used an existing plan, a plan that was already designed, it was cheaper to go with an existing plan,” Nesvik said.
According to Rebekah Fitzgerald, the communications director for Game and Fish, the design meets the functionality needed for a game warden station/home.
“It meets the functionality and the needs. The homes are also supplied with, as claimed to me as part of the package … basic things with options presented,” Fitzgerald said.
The director will also review design and furnishings to be sure they meet functionality needs, as well as the best use of money.
According to the bid documents, these items include a propane fireplace not to exceed $3,500, stainless steel appliances for the kitchen, and hickory, or another medium hardwood, cabinets with brushed nickel knobs and pulls.
Ongoing costs for the residence/office will include utilities, taxes and insurance, although Fitzgerald said that currently those costs are unknown until the construction is complete. She noted that the department will pay those fees.
Nesvik said that the department has faced several issues while trying to obtain another warden station after the previous home/office on Fifth Avenue was sold for $39,000. The game warden had moved out of that location in April 2013.
Since then, Nesvik and Fitzgerald said, the department has provided Achterhof with $739 a month for rental assistance and that his office in the State Forestry building has been provided free of charge. The department currently has a memorandum of understanding for the office space.
According to the summary and feasibility study, the Newcastle game warden spent a considerable amount of time looking for a suitable replacement for the warden station in 2011-12, before moving out of the space. The new location had to be within the Game and Fish Commission’s approved budget of $250,000, the dollar amount approved in fiscal year 2013.
Fitzgerald said that the commission approved the addition of $175,000 to the budget, making the total budget $425,000, still less than the more than $600,000 in costs associated with the project today. She said that the additional funds are being taken out of leftover monies the department was able to allocate.
“When we have money we don’t spend on things that it was budgeted for, we can
use it within our operational funds if they meet certain requirements,” Fitzgerald said. “The additional money was found there.”
Nesvik said that the department’s first option would have been to purchase a preexisting home because of the cost certainty but that the department “struggled to find something that would work.”
“As we have highlighted, this has not been an easy process. We have had a hard time trying to find or build something that is suitable for the long-term needs and the commission has the responsibility to find the best value for something that will last for decades,” Nesvik said.
Because of the government purpose associated with the building, he said, there are nuances that other people building homes will not have to accommodate.
“I wish we could have bought the house in 2013, but that didn’t happen. We were in the position that we needed to get something done and this is where we are at,” Nesvik said, noting that the new station/home is to benefit the Weston County public although he cannot recall a time that the project was discussed locally.